December 17th, 2019

Hunting — Programs to Strengthen America’s Ranks of Hunters

NRA join hunt hunter hunting education hunting license wildlife training

This report based on story in American Hunter magazine, by J. Scott Olmsted, Editor in Chief

The 2016 report of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation, a survey conducted every five years by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, showed that today only about 11.5 million Americans aged 16 or older hunt. That’s only 4.9 percent of adults among a population of 320 million.

Declining Numbers of Hunters — What We Can Do
Too many Americans have left the field; they no longer hunt. Too many current American hunters continue to consider leaving the field. In fact the number of American hunters today is about half what it was 50 years ago, and the decline is expected to continue to accelerate.

Demographers don’t see any uptick on the horizon. Nearly a third of American hunters are baby boomers. The youngest boomers are 54, and trends suggest most hunters stop buying licenses by about 65. So what happens in 11 years when the last of the baby boomers stops hunting?

NRA join hunt hunter hunting education hunting license wildlife training

Indeed wildlife and wildlands are heavily dependent on hunters and fishers to survive and thrive. State agencies, which manage most of the wildlife in America, derive about 59 percent of their collective funding from hunting- and fishing-related activities. A primary source of that funding — hunters — is shrinking. Note that funding doesn’t come from birdwatching or hiking or kayaking, to name a few non-consumptive activities that contribute no funds.

where to hunt map NSSF

Hunter Education Programs from the NRA
The NRA was the first organization to develop a hunter-education course, in 1949 in New York. It became the model. Today, in the digital age, the NRA provides NRA Hunter Education Online. offers FREE comprehensive hunter safety information online. The 15-chapter sequence features videos, photos and graphics, audio recordings, interactive modules that prospective hunters may access whenever and wherever they are able to complete it. It provides the best method for teaching future hunters lessons they will remember the rest of their lives.

Let’s not forget our youngest hunters. Since 1985, the NRA’s Youth Hunter Education Challenge (YHEC) has introduced more than 1.2 million young people to safe, ethical hunting. YHEC competitions test participants’ hunting, stalking, and marksmanship skills. To learn more about YHEC, visit

Youth Hunter Education Challenge

Our user-pay system of conservation, the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation, is recognized worldwide. But non-consumptive users (heck, many hunters) don’t know about it. We need to broaden the base of understanding if only by raising the level of awareness of hunting. Better yet, let’s increase the number of hunters while we’re at it.

Enter the three r’s: recruitment, retention and reactivation. As a concept it’s known as R3, and it pays dividends. It’s not new. Wildlife agencies and private groups like the NRA, Safari Club International, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and others have pushed it for years. But it is our new mission.

Who better than NRA members to tackle this job? We’re already part of the greatest gun club in the world. Our membership grants access to resources at our fingertips.

Start with American Hunter magazine, founded in 1973 and published 12 months a year. This is the largest-circulating pure hunting magazine in the world. Every month we inform and entertain a million readers who are passionate about the hunting lifestyle. is our digital component, chockful of all the content found in this magazine and more, and available 24/7 to all hunters regardless whether they are members.

We’re all gun owners, right? The NRA was founded in 1871 on the premise of instructing a civilian populace in the use of small arms so that our homeland would always be protected. Today, 111,934 NRA-certified rifle, shotgun and pistol instructors stand ready to help new gun owners and even experienced gun owners who need expert training.

Remember the NRA sponsors two outstanding outdoor shows. The NRA Annual Meetings & Exhibits assembles almost 100,000 members in a different city every year, where we celebrate our Second Amendment freedom and see new guns and gear, gather for hands-on instruction and more. Remember the Great American Outdoor Show (GAOS). Folks up and down the East Coast recognize it as a humdinger that lasts nine days every winter. You owe it to yourself and a prospective pupil to join the tremendous gathering of fellow hunters at the GAOS in Harrisburg, Pa., from February 2–10.

Finally, I would be remiss if I did not speak to our legislative advocacy on behalf of gun owners and hunters.

The Institute for Legislative Action is the lobbying arm of the NRA, founded in 1975 to preserve the right of all law-abiding individuals to purchase, possess and use firearms for legitimate purposes as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. When restrictive “gun-control” legislation is proposed at any government level, NRA members and supporters are alerted and respond with individual letters, faxes, e-mails and calls to their elected representatives to make their views known. Visit to sign up for these alerts.

Hunting is a lifestyle that attracted us years ago for any number of reasons. We all know it has the power to attract and captivate others like us. We need only to find those people and inspire them. We can do this. We must. It starts with an introduction.

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